SWOP celebated its 30th Birthday in the splendour of the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh.
The event was well attended and we were delighted to welcome back three past Chairs of the Group, Dr Ann Matheson, David Hart and Valerie Well. It was also good to have Brian Bourner join us. Brian was SWOP Secretary for many years. We had new faces too, Gillian Daly, EO of SCURL, Donna Watson and Sarah Louise McDonald from University of Edinburgh’s Law Library.
Our two presentations from Gary Hart Senior Education and Engagment Officer at the UK Parliament and Sarah Ames, Digital Scholarship Librarian at the National Library of Scotland were well received. We look forward to hearing more from Sarah in the future as she is very interested in the possiblities for text and data mining in Official Publications collections.
We are pleased to have Kayleigh McGarry from the Scottish Government Legal Directorate join our Business Committee and Scott McGregor take over as SWOP Secretary. We are now in need of a new Chair for the Group as Fiona Laing has stepped down from this role after five years. This is a challenging but rewarding role which gives the opportunity to develop new skills and increase your knowledge of Official Publications.
This article, written by Fiona Laing, Official Publications Curator, National Library of Scotland, first appeared in K&IM Refer 35(3) Autumn 2019
The Scottish School Exam Papers Project has developed and grown over the last five years in ways that I could never have anticipated at the outset. The project was cited in the nominations for two awards that I received over the summer: CILIP Scotland’s Library and Information Professional of the Year, and the Government Information Group’s Life Time Achievement Award. It was also specifically mentioned in the feedback I received when gaining my CILIP Fellowship in September.
The project began as potential partnership between the Institute of Education (IoE) and the National Library of Scotland to collaborate in a funding bid to the Wellcome Trust to digitise school exam papers for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects. It ended up however, in a quite different guise four years later with the National Library independently producing a web feature that included its digitised early Scottish schools exam papers, alongside some creative interpretation of that content. It is a great example of setting out to deliver one project and ending up with something quite different but equally brilliant.
The original partnership with the IoE would have allowed researchers to see the development of the teaching of the STEM subjects over time, and with the addition of the Scottish content, comparisons could have been made between the two countries education systems. The National Library of Scotland gained the full support of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) for the project and signed a collaboration agreement with IoE in the summer of 2015. Unfortunately, the initial bid was unsuccessful and was resubmitted later that year, only to fail once more.
Having gained permission from the SQA to digitise the Scottish school exam papers, the National Library decided to proceed with the digitisation of its own content. It is still my hope that at some point in the future we will be able to combine this content with the English education exams papers from the IoE, and achieve a similar outcome to the one we had initially hoped for.
The digitised papers cover the first Leavers Certificate in 1888 (which was published as a Parliamentary Paper) up to the Scottish Certification of Education exams in 1963. In 2017, the papers were made freely available on the Library’s Digital Gallery. In 2018, the National Library decided to look at how it could improve engagement with its Digital Gallery content. A cross library group was established and given the task of producing, in 12 weeks, something more engaging with one of its digitised collections. I was delighted when the Exams site was selected for the project. Whilst the Digital Gallery pages gave the full text of the Exam papers by year and OCRing allowed full searchability, it lacked context and anything that might answer the question “why would I would be interested in looking at these?” By the addition of a short video interview with Professor Patterson of Edinburgh University and a time line of events in Scottish education, we were able to demonstrate how these papers showed the development of Scottish education during this period. For example, they highlight the increased accessibility to the exams by both sexes as well as the increased range of subjects. The exams now gave pupils an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, especially for girls; and whilst the subjects may not have changed much, the titles have. What we now call history and geography and modern studies, the study of politics, was all part of the English exam.
Most people will have had to sit exams of one sort or another during their lifetime; however they are not often looked back on with joyful reflection. The project group explored the idea that the papers could be used as a source of inspiration rather that for the purpose of testing abilities. This took the project off in a completely different direction. The Library advertised through Creative Scotland for artists to produce creative responses to the exam papers. It awarded seven bursaries of £1,000 each. Although we had a tight deadline for applications, we were overwhelmed by the responses from across Scotland. It was very difficult to select just seven pieces. The final submissions can be viewed alongside the digital content and the contextual information. The Resits include a punk rock group, a ballet company, some beautiful art work, choral music and contemporary dance, an amazing and diverse mix.
This project demonstrates how a small but rich collection of material can be used in many different ways and by different user groups. This was certainly not what I had anticipated when I first embarked on the project with the Institute of Education five years earlier. It wasn’t all plain sailing of course. Keeping the project alive took energy and enthusiasm, but I believed that it was a worthwhile project from the start. I spoke about it to anyone who would listen, in my own organisation and beyond. The final product surpassed my expectations and the feedback that we received was hugely positive.
In 2019, the exam papers content was made available on the Library’s new Data Foundry. This presents Library collections as data in a machine-readable format, widening the scope for digital research and analysis. This will allow researchers to examine this collection in yet another way, purely as text.
In 2020, the remainder of our Scottish School Exam papers collection will be added to our Digital Gallery and Data Foundry, and I am excited to see what future developments will emerge from the use of this resource.
The House of Commons Library open day 2020 will enable librarians and information officers to visit and hear about the professional and impartial information and research service for Members of Parliament and their staff provided by the Library to MPs and their staff.
This is a full-day event that is scheduled to include: talks and presentations by Library staff, a short tour of Parliament and a rare opportunity to see the Members’ Library.
To register your interest, please complete the application form and submit it by 29 November 2019. As there are a limited number of places available, we aim to offer places from a wide range of people currently working across the different library and information sectors. Successful applicants only will be informed by 13 December 2019.
Informed Parliaments, Engaged Citizens, Effective Government
5 – 6 December 2019
Westminster, London, United Kingdom
In 2019 in the context of its work on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations is focussing in particular on SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions. This goal is core to the work of the IFLA Government Libraries Section.
This two-day conference considers how libraries serving legislatures and executives can use information partnerships and outreach to improve citizen engagement and government accountability.
Research Data Alliance. “This case study reports activities performed by Research Data Alliance (RDA), an international grassroots organisation that promotes international collaboration and global sharing mechanisms to remove social and technical barriers to research data sharing and reuse. The report concludes with lessons learnt and policy conclusions.”
On Thursday 17 October, the Prime Minister and the European Council announced they had agreed in principle a revised EU exit deal. On Saturday 19 October, there will be an extraordinary sitting of both Houses of Parliament so that MPs can approve, and Peers debate, the implications of this new deal.
House of Commons Library research on both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration can be accessed here.”
Prof. Marc Alexander discusses how semantic queries are enabled for the Hansard Corpus, a digital record of 7.6 mill UK Parliament speeches.
The Hansard Corpus (1803-2003) contains 7.6 million speeches from the UK Parliament, which are not verbatim. Its size – 1.6 billion words – means that it is particularly unwieldy to explore digitally. As a result, in 2015 it was tagged semantically using the tagset of the Historical Thesaurus of English in order to enable semantic queries and aggregation. In this talk, I will discuss what the corpus represents, the overall picture of the Parliamentary record from a semantic point of view (‘through a telescope’), and what such digital parliamentary records can tell us.
General view of the Plenary chamber in Brussels – PHS Hemicycle – Plenary session week 46 2014
Brexit: Make or break? [What Think Tanks are thinking]“The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has presented a draft text to replace the ‘Irish backstop’, with the aim of reaching agreement with the other 27 EU leaders on the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the EU in the coming weeks. This note offers links to a series of most recent commentaries and reports from major international think tanks and research institutes on Brexit.”
Rural Connections: Spring/Summer 2019. Latest magazine articles include; Getting smart villages right, Rural women in Europe, Promoting the rural bioeconomy, and Empowering rural youth.
Policing in the UK – “This briefing discusses the key legislation for the governance of police services, how police forces work, including when they work together, how they organise their staff and how they are overseen.
The police service in the UK is divided into 47 separate police forces: 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales, a national police force in both Scotland and Northern Ireland and 2 specialist police forces: the British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.”
Brexit reading list: no deal – “This paper provides links to a selection of 2019 publications by private sector organisations, think tanks, research institutes and other academic institutions on a no-deal exit from the EU.
As the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement – or ‘deal’…
The modern practice of prorogation and adjournment is in theory, at least, clearly enough understood. Prorogation is an act of the Crown, usually used to mark the end of one session and fix a date for the start of another. Adjournment is an act of each House of Parliament, used routinely to end each day’s sitting, and to interrupt the normal succession of daily sittings, so that the House can take a break for its holidays, or some other purpose. In modern political memory, prorogation is a brief pause that acts as a routine way of marking the end of one parliamentary and political year and the start of another. There are plenty of earlier instances – leaving aside the much argued-over case of 1997 and the rather sui generis case of 1948 – in which prorogation is said to have been used in order to block one or other…
The Scottish Parliament would like feedback on their new website which is currenty in beta. The site hosts Legislation (Bills) and Debates and Questions. My first question is “Where has the official report gone?” The publication called the Official Report, established in 1999, is not mentioned on the beta site. It appears now under ‘Debates and Questions’. This is an issue for archiving purposes, metadata creation (is this a change of title? I believe not) and citing the resource, for example. Authoritative information is difficult enough to find so consistency in my experience is key. Please have a look at the new site and see if it meets your users needs. Feedback can be sent to email@example.com or by clicking on the ‘was this page useful’ tab at the foot of each webpage.
As part of its Digital Scholarship service, the National Library of Scotland has launched a website for its data collections.
The new Data Foundry site presents Library collections as data in a machine-readable format, widening the scope for digital research and analysis.
Techniques like content mining and image analysis can now be carried out using the Library’s collections. It features more than 70GB of data, including digitised text and images, metadata collections, map data and organisational data.
Digitised Library collections available as data through the site include some great official publications collections with more to follow.